Buffalo jump

A buffalo jump is a cliff formation which Native Americans historically used to hunt and kill plains bison in mass quantities.

Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump-27527-2
Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump, in southern Alberta
Alfred Jacob Miller - Hunting Buffalo - Walters 371940190
Buffalo being chased off a cliff as seen and painted by Alfred Jacob Miller in the late 19th century.

Method of the hunt

Hunters herded the bison and drove them over the cliff, breaking their legs and rendering them immobile. Tribe members waiting below closed in with spears and bows to finish the kills. The Blackfoot Indians called the buffalo jumps "pishkun", which loosely translates as "deep blood kettle". This type of hunting was a communal event which occurred as early as 12,000 years ago and lasted until at least 1500 AD, around the time of the introduction of horses. The broader term game jumps includes buffalo jumps and cliffs used for similarly hunting other herding animals, such as reindeer. The Indians believed that if any buffalo escaped these killings then the rest of the buffalo would learn to avoid humans, which would make hunting even harder.[1]

Buffalo jump sites are often identified by rock cairns, which were markers designating "drive lanes", by which bison would be funneled over the cliff. These drive lanes would often stretch for several miles.

Buffalo jump sites yield significant archaeological evidence because processing sites and camps were always nearby. The sites yield information as to how the Native Americans used the bison for food, clothing and shelter. Plains Indians in particular depended on the bison for their very survival. Every part of the animal could be used in some way: hides for clothes and shelter, bones for tools, sinews for bowstrings and laces. Hooves could be ground for glue, and the brains could be used in the tanning process for the hides. The extra meat was preserved as pemmican.[2]

In one of his journals, Meriwether Lewis describes how a buffalo jump was practiced during the Lewis and Clark Expedition:

one of the most active and fleet young men is selected and disguised in a robe of buffalo skin... he places himself at a distance between a herd of buffalo and a precipice proper for the purpose; the other Indians now surround the herd on the back and flanks and at a signal agreed on all show themselves at the same time moving forward towards the buffalo; the disguised Indian or decoy has taken care to place himself sufficiently near the buffalo to be noticed by them when they take to flight and running before them they follow him in full speed to the precipice; the Indian (decoy) in the mean time has taken care to secure himself in some cranny in the cliff... the part of the decoy I am informed is extremely dangerous.[3]

Despite having described a jump in detail, neither Lewis nor any white settlers are known to have personally witnessed the events.[4]

Historical sites

Sunset Route, Mile Creek Canyon, Texas
Mile Canyon bison jump site

Sites of interest include Head-Smashed-In, Bonfire Shelter, Ulm Pishkun, Madison Buffalo Jump, Dry Island, Glenrock, Big Goose Creek, Cibolo Creek, Vore,[5] Too Close for Comfort Site, Olsen-Chubbuck Bison Kill Site, and Camp Disappointment of the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

Ulm Pishkun Buffalo Jump is likely the largest buffalo jump in the world. It was used by the Native Americans in the area between 900 and 1500 AD. The cliffs themselves stretch for more than a mile and the site below has compacted bison bones nearly 13 feet (4.0 m) deep.[6] Ulm Pishkun Buffalo Jump is located in First Peoples Buffalo Jump State Park in Cascade County, Montana, north-northwest of the community of Ulm.

Madison Buffalo Jump State Park is a Montana state park in Gallatin County, Montana in the United States. The park is 638 acres (258 ha) and sits at an elevation of 4,554 feet (1,388 m).[7] The park is named for a canyon cliff used by Native Americans as a buffalo jump, where herds of bison were stampeded over the cliff as an efficient means of slaughter.[8] This limestone cliff was used for 2,000 years by Native Americans.[9] Madison Buffalo Jump State Park is a day use-only park. It is open year-round for hiking, wildlife observation, and some picnicking.[8]

Camp Disappointment, the northernmost point of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, is among the best-preserved buffalo jumps in Montana, due to its relatively inaccessible location. The creek at the bottom of the cliff periodically exposes animal bones.[10]

There is a 3-D reconstruction of Charles M. Russell's painting of a buffalo jump on display at the Helena State Capital Museum, Helena, Montana.

See also


  1. ^ A Buffalo Jump, Discovering Clark and Lewis, The Lewis and Clark Fort Mandan Foundation
  2. ^ Mass Kills. Texas Beyond History.
  3. ^ Wednesday May 29, 1805. The Journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition (Volume 4). Gary E. Moulton, editor
  4. ^ Reader's Digest "Mysteries of the Ancient Americas" (The Reader's Digest Association, Inc., 1986) p. 90
  5. ^ "About the Vore Buffalo Jump". Vore Buffalo Jump. Vore Buffalo Jump Association. 2007. Archived from the original on May 11, 2010. Retrieved August 4, 2009.
  6. ^ Ulm Pishkun Buffalo Jump State Historical Monument Park and Center. Archived August 26, 2009, at the Wayback Machine LewisAndClarkTrail.com
  7. ^ "Madison Buffalo Jump State Monument". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey. June 1, 1995. Retrieved July 13, 2010.
  8. ^ a b "Madison Buffalo Jump State Park". Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks. Archived from the original on July 10, 2010. Retrieved July 13, 2010.
  9. ^ Madison Buffalo Jump State Park, Montana Official State Travel Site
  10. ^ "Camp Disappointment" (PDF). National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. Retrieved May 17, 2015.
Boyd Wettlaufer

Boyd Nicholas David Wettlaufer, (2 May 1914 – 27 November 2009) was a Canadian archaeologist, considered as 'the Father of Saskatchewan Archaeology.' His groundbreaking archaeological work in western Canada is considered the foundation of our knowledge of the Northern Plains First Nations people.

Wettlaufer was born in Asquith, Saskatchewan, Canada. He joined the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1938 and was stationed in Alberta, Canada when he discovered the Belly River meteorite. He subsequently attended the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where he studied archaeology.

During the 1940s and 1950s, Wettlaufer played a key role in the excavations of the Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump site in Alberta and the Mortlach and Long Creek sites in Saskatchewan. Wettlaufer's work at Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump would lead eventually to its designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1981. He was one of the first archaeologists in Canada to use the radiocarbon dating method to establish the ages of various layers of settlements. His reports provided invaluable information on the differences between various hunting and gathering cultures dating back several thousand years.

Wettlaufer died in 2009 in Victoria, British Columbia, aged 95.

Dry Island Buffalo Jump Provincial Park

Dry Island Buffalo Jump Provincial Park is a provincial park in Central Alberta, Canada, located about 103 km (64 mi) southeast of Red Deer and 16 km (9.9 mi) east of Trochu. The park is situated along the Red Deer River and features badlands topography. Its name derives from the large plateau in the middle of the park, 200 m (660 ft) above the Red Deer River, which has never been developed by humans and retains virgin prairie grasses.

The park is situated at an elevation ranging from 720 m (2,360 ft) to 875 m (2,871 ft) and has a surface of 34.5 km2 (13.3 sq mi).

The park is the site of an ancient buffalo jump, where Cree native people drove bison over the cliffs in large numbers to provide for their tribes. The hills also contain unique flora and fauna that are not found this far east of the Rocky Mountains in as large numbers as at Dry Island. The park contains the most important Albertosaurus bone bed in the world, which was first discovered by Barnum Brown in 1910 and rediscovered by Dr. Phil Currie in 1997. The bone bed excavation was halted at the end of August, 2005. Dr. Currie left the Royal Tyrrell Museum in October 2005 to become the Canada Research Chair with the Biological Sciences Department at the University of Alberta. Under university auspices, excavation at the bone bed has continued in the summers of 2006, 2007 and 2008.

First Peoples Buffalo Jump State Park

First Peoples Buffalo Jump State Park is a Montana state park and National Historic Landmark in Cascade County, Montana in the United States. The park is 1,481 acres (599 ha) and sits at an elevation of 3,773 feet (1,150 m).

It is located about 3.5 miles (5.6 km) northwest of the small town of Ulm, which is near the city of Great Falls. First Peoples Buffalo Jump State Park contains the Ulm Pishkun (also known as the Ulm Buffalo Jump), a historic buffalo jump utilized by the Native American tribes of North America.

It has been described as, geographically speaking, either North America's largest buffalo jump or the world's largest. There is some evidence that it was the most utilized buffalo jump in the world. The site was added to the National Register of Historic Places on December 17, 1974, and designated a National Historic Landmark in August 2015. The former name of the park was derived from the Blackfeet word "Pis'kun," meaning "deep kettle of blood," and the nearby town of Ulm.Although there are more than 300 buffalo kill sites in Montana, First People's Buffalo Jump is one of only three protected buffalo jumps in the state. The other two are Madison Buffalo Jump near Three Forks, and Wahkpa Chu'gn near Havre, both of which are also on the National Register of Historic Places. It may be the largest bison cliff jump in North America.

Game drive system

A game drive system was a prehistoric hunting strategy where game were herded into areas where they could be hunted in groups. Once a site was identified or manipulated to be used as a game drive site, it would be well-used over the years as temporary, seasonal hunting camps.

Getting Married in Buffalo Jump

Getting Married in Buffalo Jump is a 1990 Canadian TV movie filmed in Alberta, Canada. In specific Cowley, Lundbreck, and Pincher Creek. It was directed by Eric Till and stars Wendy Crewson and Paul Gross.

Glenrock Buffalo Jump

The Glenrock Buffalo Jump is a 40-foot (12 m) high bluff in Converse County, Wyoming that was used by Native Americans as a buffalo jump. Bison were driven over the edge of the escarpment and were killed or injured by the fall, allowing the hunters to collect large quantities of meat at little hazard to themselves. Large amounts of buffalo bone and articles left by the hunters remain at the site, which was used from about 400 to 1750.The Glenrock Buffalo Jump was placed on the National Register of Historic Places on April 16, 1969.

Havre, Montana

Havre ( HAV-ər) is the county seat and largest town in Hill County, Montana, in the United States. Havre is nicknamed the crown jewel of the Hi-Line. It is said to be named after the city of Le Havre in France. As of the 2010 census the population was 9,310, and in 2016 the estimated population was 9,846.

Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump

Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump is a buffalo jump located where the foothills of the Rocky Mountains begin to rise from the prairie 18 km (11.2 mi) west of Fort Macleod, Alberta, Canada on highway 785. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home of the museum of Blackfoot culture. Joe Crowshoe Sr. (1903 - 1999) – Aapohsoy’yiis (Weasel Tail) – a ceremonial Elder of the Piikani Nation in southern Alberta, was instrumental in the development of the site. The Joe Crow Shoe Sr. Lodge is dedicated to his memory. He dedicated his life to preserving Aboriginal culture and promoting the relationship between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people and in 1998 was awarded the National Aboriginal Achievement Award for "saving the knowledge and practices of the Blackfoot people."

John Frizzell

John B. Frizzell (born in Kingston, Ontario) is a Canadian screenwriter and film producer.

After several years writing, directing and co-producing the documentary series A Different Understanding for TVOntario, Frizzell joined partners Niv Fichman, Barbara Willis Sweete and Larry Weinstein to found the Canadian production company Rhombus Media. He left Rhombus in the mid-eighties to pursue a career in writing.

His credits include the television series Airwaves, The Rez, Twitch City, Angela Anaconda and Material World and the films A Winter Tan, Getting Married in Buffalo Jump, Life with Billy, Dance Me Outside, On My Own and Lapse of Memory. He was co-winner of a Writers Guild of Canada Award for Lucky Girl.

List of Montana state parks

This is a list of state parks and reserves in the Montana state park system, in the United States.

List of National Historic Sites of Canada in Alberta

This is a list of National Historic Sites (French: Lieux historiques nationaux) in the province of Alberta. As of March 2018, there are 61 National Historic Sites designated in Alberta, 15 of which are administered by Parks Canada (identified below by the beaver icon ). The first three sites in Alberta were designated in 1923: the site of rival trading posts Fort Augustus and Fort Edmonton, the site of the Frog Lake Massacre and the site of the first outpost of the North-West Mounted Police in Western Canada at Fort Macleod.Numerous National Historic Events also occurred across Alberta, and are identified at places associated with them, using the same style of federal plaque which marks National Historic Sites. Several National Historic Persons are commemorated throughout the province in the same way.

This list uses names designated by the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, which may differ from other names for these sites.

Madison Buffalo Jump State Park

Madison Buffalo Jump State Park is a Montana state park located seven miles south of the Interstate 90 interchange at Logan in Gallatin County, Montana in the United States. The park preserves a canyon cliff used by Native Americans as a buffalo jump, where herds of bison were stampeded over the cliff as an efficient means of slaughter. The main geographic features of the jump site remain largely unchanged since the days of the jumps. Archaeologists have found tons of bison bones buried at the base of the cliffs. They have also uncovered the remains of tipi villages.

Morrin, Alberta

Morrin is a village in central Alberta, Canada. It is located 26 km north of the town of Drumheller, along Highway 27 and the Railink Central Western railway.

The Morrin Bridge Provincial recreation area is located 10 km west of the village, in the Red Deer River valley, and Dry Island Buffalo Jump Provincial Park is located 40 km north.

Morrin was originally named "Blooming Prairie" but was renamed Morrin in honour of the engineer of the first train to the village.

Pirogue Island State Park

Pirogue Island State Park is a public recreation area on the Yellowstone River, just north of Miles City, Montana. The 269-acre (109 ha) state park has 2.8 miles (4.5 km) of designated hiking trails.

Provincial historic sites of Alberta

Provincial historic sites of Alberta are museums and historic sites run by the Government of Alberta.Only sites owned by the provincial government and run as a functioning historic site or museum are known as Provincial Historic Sites. Buildings and sites owned by private citizens and companies or other levels or branches of government may gain one of two levels of historic designation, "Registered Historic Resource" or "Provincial Historic Resource". A concentration of several heritage buildings can be designated a "Provincial Historic Area", and there are two such areas in Alberta: downtown Fort Macleod and Old Strathcona in Edmonton. Historic designation in Alberta is governed by the Historic Resources Act. The province also lists buildings deemed historically significant by municipal governments on the Alberta Register of Historic Places, which is also part of the larger Canadian Register of Historic Places although this does not imply provincial or federal government status or protection. The Alberta Main Street Program helps to preserve historic buildings in the downtowns of smaller communities. The Heritage Survey Program is a survey of 80,000 historic buildings in Alberta, with no protective status.The official list as per the government of Alberta is:

Brooks Aqueduct, irrigation museum near Brooks

Carmangay Tipi Rings - archaeological tipi ring site at Carmangay, near Calgary

Father Lacombe Chapel / Chapelle du Père Lacombe - missionary church built by Father Albert Lacombe in 1861 in St. Albert

Frank Slide Interpretive Centre - site of rock slide tragedy in 1903, in Frank

Fort George and Buckingham House - fur trade post, near Elk Point

Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump - (also UNESCO World Heritage Site and National Historic Site of Canada) - First Nations' history, near Fort Macleod

Historic Dunvegan - fur trade post and mission, near Fairview

Leitch Collieries - coal mine, Crowsnest Pass

Lougheed House - sandstone mansion from 1891 in Calgary.

Oil Sands Discovery Centre - oil sands mining display, Fort McMurray

Okotoks Erratic - giant rock left by glaciers, Okotoks

Remington Carriage Museum - collection of horse-drawn forms of transportation, Cardston

Reynolds-Alberta Museum - machinery and transportation, aviation hall of fame, Wetaskiwin

Royal Alberta Museum - official provincial museum (formerly Provincial Museum of Alberta), Edmonton

Royal Tyrrell Museum - dinosaurs and palaeontology, near Drumheller

Rutherford House - home of Alberta's first premier, University of Alberta, Edmonton

Stephansson House - home of famous Icelandic poet Stephan G. Stephansson, near Red Deer

Turner Valley Gas Plant - site of early oil discovery, near Calgary

Tyrrell Field Station - field station of Tyrrell Museum, near Brooks

Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village - recreation of early Ukrainian settlement in Canada, near Edmonton

Victoria Settlement - early pioneer settlement, near Smoky Lake

Vore Buffalo Jump

The Vore Buffalo Jump is an archeological site in Crook County, Wyoming. A sinkhole, formed where gypsum soil was eroded, leaving a steep-sided pit about 40 feet (12 m) deep and 200 feet (61 m) in diameter. Native American hunters could stampede bison in the direction of the pit, which was deep enough to kill or disable the animals that were driven into it. The location is one of a number of buffalo jump sites in the north central United States and southern Canada. The Vore site was used as a kill site and butchering site from about 1500 AD to about 1800 AD. Archeological investigations in the 1970s uncovered bones and projectile points to a depth of 15 feet (4.6 m). About ten tons of bones were removed from the site. About five percent of the site has been excavated, and the pit is estimated to contain the remains of 20,000 buffalo.

Lithic evidence suggests that the Kiowa and Apache used the site as they migrated southwards to their modern home in the Texas-New Mexico region. Later peoples using the Vore site included the Shoshone, Hidatsa, Crow and Cheyenne.The site was discovered during the construction of Interstate 90 in the early 1970s. Located on the Vore family ranch, the site was to be crossed by the Interstate. Exploratory drilling in the sinkhole yielded quantities of bison bones. The University of Wyoming was notified of the potential archeological site and the road was moved to the south. The site was investigated in 1971 and 1972 by Dr, George Frison of the University of Wyoming. In 1982 the site was transferred to the University by the Vore family with the stipulation that it be developed as a public education center within twelve years. Funding limitations prevented development, so the site was again transferred to the Vore Buffalo Jump Foundation, which has built a small interpretive center and provides interpretive services. The Vore site is located in a narrow strip of land between I-90 and old US 14. The site was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.

Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park

The Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park is the union of the Waterton Lakes National Park in Canada and the Glacier National Park in the United States. Both parks are declared Biosphere Reserves by UNESCO and their union as a World Heritage Site.

West Shore State Park

West Shore State Park is a public recreation area occupying 129 acres on the western shore of Flathead Lake five miles south of Lakeside in Lake County, Montana. The state park offers boating, fishing, camping, swimming, hiking, and wildlife viewing.

Yellow Bay State Park

Yellow Bay State Park is a public recreation area occupying 15 acres on the eastern shore of Flathead Lake twelve miles south of Bigfork in Lake County, Montana. The state park offers boating, fishing, camping, swimming, and wildlife viewing.

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